Proposed New Marine Protected Areas Could Help Protect Wildlife in Wales

Porpoise in Cardigan Bay

Porpoise in Cardigan Bay

Have Your Say!

Manx Shearwaters

Manx Shearwaters

On 19 January 2016, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) launched a consultation on proposals to create six new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Welsh seas. Our seas in south west Wales are important for many species, including nationally important seabird and marine mammal species such as Manx Shearwaters and Puffins, Bottlenose Dolphins and Harbour Porpoises.

This proposal to protect new areas follows a long period of data gathering and analysis by government agencies, to determine the best locations for designation. The proposed new protected areas are a mixture of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Designated under the European Habitats and Birds Directives, SACs are sites that are considered of European importance for the species or habitats found within them, and SPAs are designated to protect populations of rare, threatened or migratory species of wild birds and the habitats on which they depend.

Within WTSWW’s area, these proposals include the following sites. Follow the hyperlink for more details on the specific  site proposals, and the rationale for choosing them:

  • West Wales Marine- a possible SAC incorporating most of Cardigan Bay and the Pembrokeshire Coast, primarily for Harbour Porpoise
  • Bristol Channel Approaches- a possible SAC incorporating Carmarthen Bay and extending across the Channel to south west England, primarily for Harbour Porpoise. The area proposed which falls outside Welsh territorial waters remains the responsibility of the UK government and is being consulted on by JNCC.
  • Skomer, Skokholm and the seas off Pembrokeshire- a proposed significant extension to the existing SPA around our Pembrokeshire islands, to extend protection for a number of our seabirds.
  • Northern Cardigan Bay- a proposed SPA  in the offshore waters north of Aberystwyth, for the single feature of the non-breeding population of Red-throated Divers.

The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales wholeheartedly welcome this significant move to protect special places where these species congregate for feeding, socialising and breeding around the UK. This network of sites will offer greater protection for a range of Welsh habitats including breeding and feeding areas, which are essential to the important life stages of these species.

Although these new site proposals do not stop human activity within these areas, they should ensure that all current and future activities do not harm protected species by ensuring they are properly regulated and managed.

If these sites are successfully designated, they will make a significant contribution to the conservation of some of our most iconic species. However, we also need to ensure adequate protection of harbour porpoises and seabirds throughout their range, both inside and outside of protected areas. We can and must all play our part in minimising threats such as prey depletion, pollution and disturbance to marine species and habitats to ensure future generations are able to enjoy our Living Seas.

The designation of SACs and SPAs in Welsh territorial waters is the responsibility of the Welsh Ministers. NRW advises Ministers on the identification of sites, and they are carrying out this consultation on behalf of the Welsh Government. No decisions have yet been made on whether to designate these areas but if they are designated, they will become part of Wales’ contribution to the Natura 2000 network, joining Wales’ existing series of marine SACs and SPAs. Final decisions on whether to designate the sites in Welsh waters will be made by the Minister for Natural Resources in the Welsh Government.

The Welsh consultation runs until 19 April, and is being co-ordinated with consultations on other proposed marine sites in English, Northern Ireland and UK offshore waters. These latter sites are being consulted on by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) – information on these sites can be found on the JNCC website.

What you can do

If you want to lend your support to the designation of these important sites for Harbour Porpoise and seabirds, you can find further information in relation to the consultation here.

All responses to this consultation must be received by midnight on 19 April 2016 at the latest. Any responses received after that date cannot be taken into account.

Responses must be submitted using the online response form or in writing by sending an email to:, or by writing to NRW at: Marine N2K Consultation, Natural Resources Wales, Maes y Ffynnon, Bangor, LL57 2DW. If you simply wish to write in support of designation you may find it simpler to do by post or email than in the online form.

If you are responding by email or letter you must indicate clearly which site or sites your response relates to. This is essential to enable NRW and JNCC to properly consider the consultations responses. You can also indicate if you would like your response on any one of the sites included in the consultation to be considered as applicable to the wider UK network proposed sites.

Please note that Welsh Government intends to publish the responses received. This includes publishing the name and address of the person or organisation that sent the response. If you do not wish your name and your views on these SAC or SPA proposals to be made public, NRW advise not to respond to this consultation.

Thank you for your support!

For further information:

SACs (harbour porpoise): Sarah Perry

SPAs (seabirds): Lizzie Wilberforce